Food & Drink

When it’s time to hunker, forget kale. Try comfort food’s cousin: ‘thud food.’

‘Thud food’ is different from its cousin comfort food, in that it isn’t necessarily simple. It can be complicated or take time. Think boeuf Bourguignon. Roast chicken. Slow-simmered spaghetti sauce.
‘Thud food’ is different from its cousin comfort food, in that it isn’t necessarily simple. It can be complicated or take time. Think boeuf Bourguignon. Roast chicken. Slow-simmered spaghetti sauce. tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

It hasn’t been above freezing in a week. I have abandoned all attempts at fashion and am wearing so many layers that I look like a walking pan of lasagna. My heat pump has been running continuously for days, and I wonder which will explode first, it or my power bill.

In the middle of all this come the masses pushing us all to diet for the new year, shrieking about “clean eating” (you need reminding to rinse your produce?), healthy cooking and such. By the way, “healthy” is all in the definition. I find an occasional piece of chocolate quite healthy for my outlook on life.

Just because a calendar page turned, I’m expected to eat nothing but salad? Make dinner a bowl of cauliflower rice as I sip juice?

I know it’s the new year, and I’m as much in favor of new starts as anyone. But January is the worst possible month to pursue changing one’s diet, no matter what the continuous loop of diet commercials say.

January is dark. In this state, we usually just get cold rain, but this year has offered air that feels like breathing ice cubes, and not in a good way. The stuff I gleefully said I’d get to after the holidays drops like an anvil in a cartoon.

“Thud food” is a meal that fills each tiny corner of the stomach and psyche. After dining on it, the warm fullness of the meal settles around me like the afghan I wrestled from one of the cats the other day.

January is time to hunker.

One does not hunker with raw kale.

My soul cries out for thud food.

The Hub and I came up with the term and guidelines for it many years ago. During January, I suspect. “Thud food” is a meal that fills each tiny corner of the stomach and psyche. After dining on it, the warm fullness of the meal settles around me like the afghan I wrestled from one of the cats the other day.

Thud food does not offer a gossamer melange of flavors that float about like lilac petals in a spring breeze – the oh-so-far-away spring. I can barely remember those distant summer days when it felt too hot to eat, when sliced tomatoes and basil or fresh romaine tossed with olive oil satisfied my spirit.

Not on a 20-degree winter day. Even if there were decent tomatoes to be had.

First of all, thud food is different from its cousin, comfort food, in that it isn’t necessarily simple. It can be complicated or take time. What else do you have to do but cook? You’re not rushing off to a pool party or picking blueberries. Boeuf bourguignon. Roast chicken. Slow-simmered spaghetti sauce. Generally thud food is solid, not liquid, but an exception can be made for French onion soup, with all that chewy cheese and giant crouton.

Unlike the carby casseroles of comfort food, thud food is protein-based, and science backs me up: Protein offers more of a full feeling. Meatloaf. Baked barbecue chicken. Pork roast.

Also, fragrance is an important component of thud food, stimulating the senses during this month when I feel like I’m living inside a refrigerator with a missing light bulb. The smell of it cooking is nearly as much of a delight as eating it. Many thud food dishes use the oven, which heats up the kitchen and, therefore, anyone in it.

Another thing that characterizes thud food: fat. Fat has scientific uses. Fats help the body absorb vitamins A, E, K and D, according to an article in The San Francisco Chronicle. On frigid days, it’s especially hard to get vitamin D from sunlight when you’re holed up in front of the TV and the sky is nothing but clouds, anyway.

Speaking of the sky, light plays a part in the need for thud food. Shorter days cue the animal side of us to stockpile calories for the winter, scientists say.

So, stop fighting nature. Go ahead and eat the chunky chili. I know you want it. April is just as good a time for a new start. After the March Madness munching is over, of course.

Debbie Moose is a freelance food writer and cookbook author. She can be reached at debbiemoose.com, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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